Newly elected DA leader Mmusi Maimane said he does not believe it is a sin to be gay – or Muslim – and is “appalled” at accusations he is homophobic.
Hitting back at his critics, he said: “There are some political opponents who want to maximise on key issues that they feel they must. It is misleading to place me in a corner as a homophobe. I have championed the rights of gay South Africans. I support the legislation as it stands”.
Maimane has been accused of holding conservative Christian views that are inconsistent with gay rights because of his role – and comments – as a pastor at the Liberty Church.
In the latest controversy, a video has circulated of a sermon Maimane conducted last year in which he makes reference to “sinners” and the “sick” when he refers to a circle of friends that include Muslims and gay people.
But Maimane says his sermon has been misconstrued. “What I was saying is that I have Muslim and gay friends. This becomes my circle. We are all sinners – chief of which I am – and all of us in the group are “sick” as in the verse I quote from. It is not because of being gay or Muslim.”
When asked specifically if he thought it was a sin to be gay or Muslim, he replied: “No.”
Interviewed at his parliamentary office yesterday (Friday), he said the context of the sermon was that he was in a traditional Christian environment “where some still hold certain views and which I feel they are entitled to. I stood up and wanted to make a point that among my friendship circle are gays and Muslims. We all share a common faith and a pursuit. That is the point I was trying to make. I was saying in fact that we should be more open. Now people have taken this to say I am anti-gay in the most appalling sense.”
Ministers at his church were aware of his progressive views and that he was “always fighting for the rights of gay people”, he said.
Referring to the tweet that he posted on Thursday – a photograph of himself with a gay couple at their wedding – he said that he had signed as a witness to the marriage of these two friends.
“I was supportive of it. If you go to the wedding register at Home Affairs you will see I signed as a witness. I don’t have the right to officiate as you need to apply to be a civil union marriage officer to do so. But I was part of this marriage.”
Although Maimane refers to gays and Muslims in the video, most of the criticism he has attracted on social media and other platforms has focused on his view on gays.
Maimane said since becoming active in politics he had played “less and less so” of a role at his church but still attended as a member. News24